Wreckage of Ecuadorean jet found near border volcano

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

CUMBAL, Colombia -- Troops and farmers trekking on foot discovered the wreckage of an Ecuadorean airliner on a glacier-capped volcano Tuesday, but found no survivors among the 92 passengers and crew.

"The plane is destroyed. There are no survivors," said Alvaro Bucheli, the mayor of Cumbal, a Colombian town in the shadow of Nevado de Cumbal, a 15,721-foot-high volcano.

The TAME airlines Boeing 727-100 took off from Quito, Ecuador, on Monday morning but lost radio contact as it approached its first stop, the Ecuadorean town of Tulcan, near the Colombian border.

Farmers returned from Nevado de Cumbal bearing a two-foot-long piece of wreckage and a passport and ID card belonging to one of the victims, a Colombian nun.

"It looked like the airplane exploded," said farmer Pablo Emilio Barcillo, holding a chunk of the plane in his hand. "The people were unrecognizable."

The search area had covered a wide section of terrain along the border between the two South American countries, and then focused on Nevado de Cumbal after farmers reported hearing a plane flying through cloud cover and then an explosion.

Gen. Cesar Naranjo, head of the Directorate of Civil Aviation of Ecuador, said searchers were looking for the black box, or flight data recorder, that might offer clues to the cause of the crash.

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